How much is not enough? Answering the $100 question…

While on tour in Japan. Instruments for the tour provided by Casio.

I hadn’t chimed in on this global conversation because it seemed frivolous and I don’t know who started the hotly contested Facebook debate. In truth, this smacks of church talk between services! In researching the topic though, I discovered a story from earlier this year that shared the “shady” practices of Sofar Sounds and its intimate concerts. Bands booked by Sofar Sounds report a total payout of merely $100. Remember, that’s per band and not per man. Depending on the band, each member leaves the 25 minute show with just enough for a #1 at any fast food restaurant, nearby. If the band is smaller, they can get gas and a meal after the show. While raking in a $25M , Sofar Sounds has done so on the backs of artists and bands who’ve received a minuscule portion of that. Before you light the torches in favor of bands, consider the hosts of these concerts who receive NOTHING.

Enter the American Federation of Musicians. No, they didn’t get involved, you’d know it if they did. No AFM member would sign up to be a part of a setup like this, nor could they! The union fights hard so that AFM members don’t have to accept $100 gigs and many musicians aren’t union to leave the wiggle room for the occasional $100 gig. About 10 years ago, the going rate for solo piano was above $100/hr and I think it precluded venues like churches.

In fact, many of the union musicians that come to mind are classical, studio, film, and award show musicians. You don’t really hear about them until a local symphony goes on strike and interrupts a theatre’s production season. The musicians are well qualified and well taken care of by the standards set by the American Federation of Musicians. The union is also home to many select job opportunities you don’t simply walk into. International tours, television appearances, house bands for shows and much more are part of union work and audition notices are sent out, monthly. These guys wouldn’t entertain a $100 gig because they simply can’t do it-it undermines the union, its standards and practices.

Join the local affiliate, AFM 72-147 (Dallas-Fort Worth)

Those of us non-union musicians with families who can afford it opt to stay home but I think across the board, it comes down to just doing whatever you want to and for whatever reason. I know plenty people who will sit in church for a 3 hour service for a yard and cats who will do a three hour gig with breaks for the same. I’ve gotten great gigs because what was offered ($100 and more) wasn’t good enough for the first call.

2013 in Japan with the Glory Gospel Singers

It’s okay, and I have turned some down without even offering another option because of what’s been offered. I recall a few months ago, Dallas musicians were calling for some solidarity at these dinner venues, bars and clubs because they were constantly being low balled despite bringing in high profits and packing out the venue.

To date, I have seen really great responses to this viral conversation/argument. Let’s be fair though, there are musicians who scoff at $1K gigs just as easily as musicians are lambasting $100, today. It’s all about what you will accept and what you ultimately agree to! Some musicians would rather do an occasional gig (home church, former school, etc) for free rather than accept money that doesn’t cover their rate. To them it’s better to give than receive. I believe that in the end, whether or not $100 is enough, isn’t a determination of a musician’s value, but a determination of that musician’s value of money!

What’s your take on the $100 conversation? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.

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